Kevin Kugler, ’94, is a Sportscaster in Perpetual Motion
Every fall and into the winter months, Kevin Kugler could use an understudy – you know, someone to fill his chair when Kugler's schedule gets so overloaded that he appears required to occupy two places at one time.
Thing is, though, the sports broadcaster apparently doesn't need it. For more than five years, he's juggled an afternoon talk show with responsibilities as an NFL play-by-play voice for Westwood One national radio and the weekly host of “Big Red Wrap-up” on Nebraska Educational Television.
"I'm about at the limit of what I can do," Kugler said.
Sixty-five to 70 hours of work each week will do that. So what's his secret?
"He's just the most organized person I've ever met," said Mike'l Severe, radio co-host with Kugler of “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” on Omaha's KOZN-1620 AM.
Kugler and Severe talk Nebraska football and other topics from 2 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. It's a year-round show, but Kugler's workload gains steam in September, when the NFL season opens.
He calls a weekly game for Westwood One, the lead man on one of two Sunday afternoon crews with former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mark Malone. The 2010 season marked Kugler's second in the NFL booth.
He worked the national college game of the week for Westwood One's NCAA radio network with ex-Auburn coach Terry Bowden from 2006 through 2008.
Additionally, Kugler has handled play by play for the NCAA basketball game of the week since the 2006-07 season. He's called the past three Final Fours, working alongside the likes of well-known voices Bill Raftery, Bill Walton, Jim Gray and former Georgetown coach John Thompson.
Kugler hosted the Masters golf tournament for Westwood One in 2009 and 2010. He filed radio reports for the network from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
And let's not forget his first foray into the national work: Play-by-play voice of the College World Series in Omaha for Westwood One since 2004.
"The play-by-play side is why I got into the business," Kugler said. "That's always been my passion. If I could do just one thing, that would be it."
Kugler maintains Nebraska ties
But he savors the opportunity to keep his Nebraska ties intact through the weekly TV show that spotlights Husker football, on which he has worked since 1999, and especially the talk show. It debuted in 2000.
"It allows my creative side to come out a little bit," Kugler said. "I try to put together some humorous bits and have fun. Around here, it's so centered on Nebraska football that once you know what happens in the game on Saturday, it branches off from that. I think anybody can do a football show in the fall.
"The key is to make it interesting 12 months out of the year. Luckily, I've got a co-host who is extremely good at this."
By all accounts, Kugler rates about as good as it gets at play by play.
College sports boosted Kugler’s career
Howard Deneroff, vice president of sports at Westwood One, needed little time to recognize Kugler's talent. The network contracted with KOZN in 2004 to broadcast the College World Series. Kugler called the action in early-round games and worked sideline duty during the best-of-three championship as Westwood One used a national voice for play by play.
After two years of such an arrangement, Kugler began to broadcast the entire CWS. And in July 2006, Deneroff hired him for the college football gig.
Things have skyrocketed from there.
"A lot of it has to do with Kevin's dedication to preparation," said Neil Nelkin, operations director at NRG Media, which owns KOZN, "and I’m talking about his daily show, his play by play and his travel. He is absolutely in charge of every minute of his day. He knows what he's doing, where he's doing it and how he's doing it."
Nelkin describes Kugler's style of calling a game as "natural."
"He comes off as Kevin," Nelkin said. "You get the same thing sitting across the table from him at lunch as you do on Sunday afternoon, listening to him call an NFL game."
According to Severe, Kugler's co-host in Omaha, it's all about the time he invests.
"He's such a good storyteller," Severe said. "He takes what he sees and gives it to you exactly. That's hard for so many guys to do, because they're all looking for a catch phrase. Kevin doesn't need a catch phrase. He just knows all the material."
Kugler said he studies 20 to 25 hours weekly before leaving Omaha for his weekly NFL destination. A basketball game, with far fewer players, requires less prep work.
Kugler’s broadcasting future is bright
Asked about future aspirations in broadcasting, Kugler shrugs.
"I'm not sure where the mountaintop is," he said, "what the next thing is that I'm supposed to do."
The Super Bowl, perhaps? Sure, Kugler said, but he's happy with his current assignment. It's a long way from his first play-by-play job at the Nebraska Shrine Bowl in 1994, four months before his graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
He earned regular work in 1996 as voice of the Omaha Racers' basketball team before the organization and its league folded a year later. Kugler called football and basketball at the University of Nebraska at Omaha prior to earning the national jobs, and he has earned Nebraska's sportscaster-of-the-year award six times.
He relies on his wife, Michelle, for support. She's an attorney by trade but left a position at Rembolt Ludtke in Lincoln to care for their daughters, Mackenzi and Cassidy, while Kevin jets around the world to talk sports.
"She's extremely understanding, very organized and a great partner is all this," Kugler said. "For me, it's a seven-day-a-week deal. I'm always doing something. Not a lot of hobbies, especially in the fall, which is fine. I like it. My hobby is my work."
Courtesy: Nebraska Alumni Association